"Jupiter Ascending" Fails To Achieve Escape Velocity

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Jupiter Ascending

I recently reviewed Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella and enjoyed it immensely. I then watched the Wachowski siblings' "Jupiter Ascending" and found that Cinderella in outer space without catchy songs, strong dialogue, an interesting antagonist or a heroic hero figure is nowhere near as enjoyable.

The Jupiter in "Jupiter Ascending" is Jupiter Jones, the erstwhile Cinderella figure, played by Mila Kunis. Jupiter is the daughter of a widowed Russian immigrant to Chicago who helps her mother and aunt clean houses all day, every day.They work for their track-suit wearing cousin, who's less a wicked stepmother and more or less just a dude. While cleaning the house of a Victoria's Secret-clad rich girl, she discovers the prototypical aliens the UFO crowd would call "the Grays" attempting to kill or abduct her patron. She seems oddly nonplussed by the near-abduction attempt and just goes about her business until they come after her next. Oh no! Whatever will she do? Get abducted--again, and again, and again.

I think Kunis is absolutely adorable, but I'm not sold on her as a top-flight actress. She's fine in an acerbic comedy like "Ted," but she seemed a bit out of her element in an action/drama roll. In fact, she doesn't really get too involved in the action. She mostly just allows herself to end up in compromising positions by one minor villain after another. She doesn't heroically overcome the odds, she just takes the least confrontational way out of these situations and hopes for the best. It's not unlike chasing Princess Toadstool in Nintendo's "Mario Bros." games. 

Her consistent rescuer is the hybrid were-human tracker Caine Wise (which in my head always sounded like Samwise, and I'm so done with Hobbits), played by Channing Tatum. Tatum does what he usually does, jumping around smashing bricks and collecting coins and getting high on mushrooms... no, wait, he's just constantly rescuing his princess like a lovesick Italian plumber, sans the Ron Jeremy mustache. He's sometimes aided and sometimes betrayed by Stinger Apini, played by Sean Bean, sleepwalking through thin plot and surely wishing they hadn't killed him off so fast in "A Game of Thrones." They find him on Earth in a decrepit farmhouse overrun with bees. The bees recognize the intergalactic lineage of Jupiter Jones and suddenly everybody realizes she's a cosmic princess. Since when do bees sense the presence of royalty? I mean outside of their own queen bee? The villains are a trio of spoiled near-immortal children with serious Electra complexes.Eddie Redmayne, Douglas Booth and Tuppence Middleton play Balem, Titus and Kalique Abrasax, the presumptuous rulers of much of the universe who find it necessary to play Machiavellian games against each other with Jupiter Jones caught in the middle.

If you can't tell yet, I'm seriously disappointed yet again in the Wachowskis. Perhaps they're a gestalt version of M. Night Shyamalan, who likewise hit his first pitch out of the park and then lost his stroke and has floundered ever since. I realize "The Matrix: Reloaded" and "The Matrix: Revolutions" made money, but that doesn't mean they were particularly good. Neither was "Cloud Atlas." The tepid dialogue and the plot lifted straight out of an XBOX game is, or at least should be, beneath the Wachowskis. When they had the opportunity to ramp up the danger and the drama, they play it for laughs. When they deliberately try to be funny, it often falls flat. The Chicago action scenes should have been a big deal, but they conveniently wipe the event out of most of the minds of the populace and quickly rebuild the damage. C'mon--I'm a St. Louisian and even I don't think Chicagoans are that dumb--give or take the Cubs fans.

"Jupiter Ascending" never reaches it's zenith. At best it's a "dollar show" watch or a Redbox rental. I hope the Wachowskis don't bother with the seemingly inevitable sequel and find some other way to regain their prowess. Preferably a way that doesn't involve 3-D glasses that add absolutely nothing to the movie watching experience except for an unnecessary bump in ticket prices. This film was originally set for a big summer 2014 release. An early February release is very telling about the quality of this feature. 

Grade: 
2.0 / 5.0